A great opportunity for teeth

Published 3:51 pm Wednesday, February 25, 2015

One of the most exciting health care events to come to Suffolk will take place again Saturday, and organizers are promising the show will go on, whether the weather cooperates or not.

With opportunities to be a part of the Virginia Dental Association Foundation’s Mission of Mercy dental care event available on a first-come, first-served basis, folks looking for free dental care through the program on Saturday would be advised to leave home early and dress warmly. Even in the cold temperatures and even in the snow, lines are expected to be long.

In fact, potential patients might want to head over to the pre-screening event that begins at 3 p.m. Friday to try to beat the rush when the clinic opens at 6:30 a.m. Saturday at King’s Fork Middle School.

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Last year’s event, the inaugural one in Suffolk, attracted 464 patients, who received free dental work ranging from extractions to fillings and cleaning. A few patients even received dentures at the clinic. Organizers hope that the addition of 20 dental chairs will increase the number of folks served before the clinic’s 5 p.m. closing this year to 700 or so.

The clinic is intended for the uninsured, underinsured and/or unemployed, but no one will be turned away because of those issues, organizers have said. But judging from the popularity of this and similar events in the past, it’s entirely possible that stragglers might not be served. Last year, at least 100 people were lined up outside the school at 5 a.m.

Whether arriving on Friday for the pre-screenings or on Saturday for the clinic, patients are asked to bring all medications, as well as food and drink. On Saturday, they should be prepared to stay all day, and child care will not be provided.

The clinic is a wonderful outreach opportunity by dentists, hygienists and dental assistants, but it also depends on the generous contributions of time and effort by dozens of volunteers from Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry, Suffolk Public Schools, the Suffolk Police Department, Suffolk Fire and Rescue, the Obici Healthcare Foundation, the Virginia Health Care Foundation, Sentara Obici Hospital and the Rotary Club of Suffolk.

All of those organizations and volunteers should be commended for the opportunity they are helping to provide for folks in Suffolk to take care of a health care problem that is too often overlooked.